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It’s been a long road, but I’m excited to announce that the audiobook of Abuse of Discretion, the first Tessa Riley mystery, is now available from iTunes and Amazon versions will, so they tell me, be available in the next few days.

My heartfelt thanks to the talented Suzanne Muir, who brought Tessa and her world to life in a way beyond what I could have imagined. Thanks also to the fine folks at ACX who made the production process smooth and painless.

Abuse of Discretion is $19.99 on Audible, but if you’re not yet an Audible customer, you can use this link to join Audible and get the book for just $7.49.

I’ve got an excerpt of the audiobook, which I’ll post here in the next day or so. I’ll also be announcing a giveaway, and giving an update on Manifest Error, the second Tessa Riley novel, so check back soon!

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This is one of the things you can’t learn about guns from reading a book or watching TV: They’re loud. Very loud. Not even a “deafening bang in your ear” kind of loud. More like an “invisible hand pressing on your chest” loud. You feel them on your skin, in your eyes and sinuses. And that’s with ear protection.

Despite the fact that I write crime fiction, in which guns often play a part, I’d never actually fired a handgun. Partly, this is because I grew up in Canada (not a gun-friendly country) and now live in California (not a gun-friendly state). Partly this is because I don’t own a gun. Sure, I read a lot about guns. I know how they operate, the calibers they come in, and all the the theory I could get my hands on.

Today I was able to fill in the missing hole in my knowledge: What it sounds like, what it smells like, what it feels like to actually hold a gun in your hand and fire it. Today, some good friends took me to the pistol range.

Even better, my friends were able to give me a pretty good cross-section of pistols to try. We had a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver, a Walther PPK/S in .380 caliber, and a Colt Gold Cup .45 caliber pistol.

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Firing the Walther PPK/S

So, what did I learn? Not surprisingly, making the bullet go where you’d like it to is harder than it looks. I managed to hit the targets often enough to avoid completely embarrassing myself, but I’d say that (at 10 yards or so) I missed more than I hit. I was also surprised that the recoil and the sound of the shot didn’t bother me as much as I’d imagined.

In fact, the only physically unpleasant part of the morning was the one hot .45 caliber shell casing that came sailing out of the gun and landed, as neatly as if it had been aimed, in the crook of my elbow. I’m proud to report I was able to calmly set the pistol down (still pointed downrange) and brush the chunk of brass onto the ground, but I was saying “ow…ow…ow…” in my head the whole time.

One of the guns we fired today was the Walther PPK/S, the US-legal version of the Walther PPK that James Bond made famous. I have to say, I’m not sure that’s the gun I’d pick for a secret agent who, I imagine, needs absolute reliability. Perhaps it was just that this specimen was new and not yet broken in, but we experienced four jams* today, and all four times it was the PPK/S that gave us trouble.

Going in, I was a bit intimidated to try my friend’s .45 caliber. The Gold Cup I fired is a jazzed-up modern incarnation of the Colt M1911, designed by John Browning more than a century ago and long the standard U.S. military sidearm. The military’s gone to a 9mm Beretta these days, but the M1911 design remains popular and available.

Again, I expected the recoil from the big .45 caliber cartridge to be the biggest challenge with this gun. My struggles instead mainly revolved around avoiding the shell casings which flew as much as 20 feet from the firing line, and seeing the black sights atop the black slide of the gun. Still, I was able to hit a gallon milk jug at 10 yards better than half the time – not bad for a first outing.

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Firing the Colt Gold Cup .45 from a seated position

Was my range outing fun? Heck, yes. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. And, as a writer, I have to say it: There are just some things you can ONLY learn from hands-on, in-the-field research. So why not get out of your chair and hands-on with your subject matter? It can only help your writing.

And a special thank you to my friends, who shall remain nameless here, for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I can’t wait to do it again.

The guns we fired today:
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* – For the curious and gun-savvy, we had two double-feeds, one failure to strip a round from the magazine, and a stovepipe extraction failure.

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First of all, I want to thank everyone for the terrific response I’ve received to my debut novel, ABUSE OF DISCRETION. Your comments, feedback, and downloads are very, very much appreciated. I’m already hard at work on the next book in the series.

I’m pleased to announce a little something extra for my readers. I’m giving away a $25 Amazon gift card this month, and you can enter by following me on Twitter, retweeting about the contest, or leaving a review on the book. And who wouldn’t enjoy a $25 Amazon gift card?

Check it out and get your entries in now:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Spread the word!


Exciting News, and a Freebie

Posted: 23rd April 2012 by tammy in Announcements, Freebies
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It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but exciting things have been going on behind the scenes here.

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve begun a collaboration with voice actress Suzanne Muir to produce an audiobook edition of Abuse of Discretion, the first Tessa Riley novel. The finished audiobook will be available through, iTunes, and sometime this summer or early fall. Watch this space for more details! I’ve never done an audiobook project before, and I’m thrilled to death that Suzanne is as excited about helping bring Tessa to life in this way as I am.

I’m also excited to report that Abuse of Discretion has been exceeding expectations so far, selling more than 1,500 copies in its first six months and reaching #10 in Amazon’s “Women Sleuths” category. I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of all my readers, and I am deeply humbled and grateful to all of you.

As a small token of my appreciation, I’m offering a free giveaway today – a fun little short story called “Shattered Glass”. It’s a bit different from my usual fare, but I hope you’ll enjoy it. You’re free to download and share for personal, non-commercial use. Snag a copy here: EPub, KindlePDF. You can also read it online here.

I’m well into the first draft of Tessa #2, with the title Manifest Errors. Watch this space for more news, including additional contests and giveaways. And please keep spreading the word about Abuse of Discretion!


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Now that the CreateSpace folks have done their magic, I’m getting ready for the “hard” launch of my debut mystery, Abuse of Discretion. The book will officially launch, and the publicity campaign will begin, on Thursday, December 1st.

Between now and then, I’m going to give some readers a chance to score free copies of the Abuse of Discretion eBook.

I’ve found readers are more likely to consider books that have reviews attached when making their purchase decisions. It’s only natural — we only have so much money to spend, and we want to know what we’re getting. So, I’m going to give a few readers a chance to score free copies of the “Abuse of Discretion” e-Book in exchange for their promises to write an honest review of the book.

Here’s the deal: Drop me an e-mail at Let me know what format you’d like (ePub, Mobi, or PDF). I’ll send you the book, you’ll read it, and then you’ll write an honest review on Smashwords or Amazon.

I’ll have lots more going on as launch day approaches, including some sales and freebies, so watch this space. And in the meantime, I want to hear from you!

One more thing – don’t forget about the Abuse of Discretion launch contest – someone’s going to win a Kindle!


The Game’s Afoot

Posted: 4th November 2011 by tammy in Announcements
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My more attentive readers may have noticed some new content on the site this morning. That’s because the first Tessa Riley mystery novel, Abuse of Discretion, was submitted to Amazon just a few minutes ago. The purchase links aren’t live yet (and yes, I’ll be adding Smashwords and others) but that’ll change over the next few days.

Once the book is live, I’ll be formally announcing my first contest, whose prizes will include Amazon gift cards and more. And, one lucky winner will receive the grand prize – a brand-new Kindle Touch! More details are coming next week, but in the meantime, please join my newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out on the news.

While we’re all waiting with bated breath, I encourage you to check out the Abuse of Discretion book page, which includes an interview with me and an excerpt.


My Writing Process: Scrivener

Posted: 23rd September 2011 by tammy in Gear, Musings

When people find out I’m a writer, one of the first questions they ask is what tools I use to write with. For readers, I think there’s a natural curiosity about how the stories they read unfold, rather like the behind-the-scenes bonus features attached to movies these days. Other writers, I’ve noticed, sometimes have an almost talismanic sense about tools, as though somehow the right tool will magically enable them to reach the bestseller lists. I’m not one of those; I firmly believe each writer’s process is as unique as her writing, but seeing as how this is my blog, I have the privilege of talking about my favorite tools.

I’ve already touched on the tool I count on for planning, outlining, note taking, and idea farming: My Levenger Soul Skin with a Moleskine notebook tucked inside. When I’m actually writing the meat of my books and stories, though, I depend on another terrific tool: Scrivener, perhaps the best writing software I’ve ever used.

Scrivener is developed by the fine folks at Literature and Latte, and is made specifically for the needs of writers. The program started on the Mac, but my understanding is that Windows and Linux versions are in the works. Scrivener has tons of features, including many I rarely use (like a “cork board” view that displays the bits of your novel as index cards on a cork board), so I won’t make this an in-depth review of all of Scrivener’s features. If you’re interested in every last nuance, I invite you to check out the support resources and tutorials over on Literature and Latte’s site. Rather, I’m going to talk about how I use Scrivener, what works for me, and what I’ve learned from the process of moving one novel into Scrivener mid-stream and starting a second as a Scrivener document from its inception.

Talking about Scrivener makes more sense if you know what it looks like. So, here’s a Scrivener document open in the application (click for a larger view):

Scrivener works with “chunks” of material which can be easily rearranged and shuffled around. In this book, each scene is shown as a chunk and each chapter as a folder containing one or more scenes. Click on a folder and you can view all the scenes in it, as index cards, an outline, or strung together in a single document like Word. Scrivener also knows how to track different versions of your scenes (which it calls “snapshots”), so you can make a snapshot of a scene prior to undertaking revisions, secure in the knowledge you can go back if you don’t like the result.

In addition to the default folders Scrivener creates for your draft, I tend to add a few others to my documents:

To the Research folder I add folders for character notes, setting notes, revision notes, e-book cover images (Scrivener can export to Kindle and EPUB automatically) and so forth. In this book, I also had a folder for Journals, where I kept up a running chronological narrative of the writing. The journal is a technique I picked up from an article by Sue Grafton in The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing. My journal is basically a place for me to “noodle” around the idea of my story – problems I’m thinking about, next steps, ideas, things I need to research, and so forth. (Sue has excerpts from some of her journals on her Web site.) For the book I’m working on currently, I’m maintaining the journal on paper, but the idea’s the same.

The Uncategorized Scenes is a lifesaver, and I owe its existence to David Hewson, who has written a terrific book about writing with Scrivener. Here’s the basic idea: Suppose you have an idea for a great scene, but you’re not sure where it’ll fit into your story. Or, suppose you write a scene, then realize it’s not needed right now. In either case, you want the scene out of your draft, but you’d like to keep it around in case you need it later. Just drop it into the Uncategorized Scenes folder, and it’ll be out of your way but easy to find if need it later.

Before I talk about my writing process, I have to mention one more killer scrivener feature: Full screen composition mode. One click, and all the distractions fade away, leaving you alone with your blank page ready for distraction-free writing:

What does my writing process look like?

  • Planning - As I said, I’m doing most of the planning for my current novel on paper, but I am retyping character sketches, scene snippets, and such into Scrivener. I’m also dumping a lot of research material – mostly in PDF form, since Mac OS X deals so well with them – into the research area of the Scrivener document.
  • Writing – As I said above, I usually use a folder per chapter, with one or more scenes inside of each folder. I create folders even if I know (or think) a chapter will only have one scene; revision is just much easier that way. My day-to-day work is almost all done in full-screen mode, because I’m much too easily distracted otherwise.
  • Revising – All done in Scrivener. I make a snapshot of my whole document when the first draft is done, and I create new snapshots of each scene before revisions. I frequently refer back to my “revision notes” folder, in which i’ve collected critique comments from my fellow writers and beta readers, my own self-editing notes, and the like.
  • Afterward - Scrivener excels at formatting documents to meet the needs of different markets, using its Compile feature. I use this all the time, compiling PDF and printed copies in different formats as needed. I also usually compile a Kindle version of my work-in-progress to put on my iPad – I find looking at the different view of my book helps with editing.
There’s lots of great stuff in Scrivener, and I highly encourage you to check it out. But for me, the full-screen mode is the most important feature of the bunch. I don’t get any work done playing with my computer, and Compose mode gets the software out of my way and just lets me write.
Scrivener for Mac is $45, a bargain at twice the price. The Windows and Linux versions are still in beta.


The Visit

Posted: 20th September 2011 by tammy in Musings
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Things have been a bit quiet around hear of late, chiefly because I’ve been up to my eyeballs with work. My “day job” work has suddenly picked up, and I’m also completing revisions of one novel and starting the planning of a second. Plus a couple of short stories that have been rattling around in the back of my mind. Writing is hard work, as all the writers in the crowd doubtless know, and harder still when you’re balancing the desires of a would-be full-time writer against the reality of a full-time something else.

But today, I’d like to talk about those moments of grace when the writing isn’t hard, when the words just flow off your keyboard (or pen) and onto the page. The moments when the Muse is alive and dancing. The moments when magic happens. Loreena McKennitt calls these moments “visits”, something to be embraced when they come and missed or anticipated when they’re gone. You can create a place of openness, with the space and energy to welcome such a visit, but you can’t force them. They come on their own timetable.

I had one such moment yesterday, and it came at a most inconvenient time: 9pm, as I was getting out of the shower and heading to bed. My spouse was already asleep, but I’d been mulling over the next book I’m about to start writing and one of the central characters was suddenly alive and present and itching to tell me his story.

I stumbled, dripping wet, into my office, grabbed a nice smooth pen (aside from my fountain pens, I really like these) and sat down with the notebook I’m keeping for the new book. An hour later, I’d filled ten pages. There’s more to come, I’m sure – Josh Newcomb hasn’t finished telling me his story yet, and I still need to explore the other characters whose lives intersect with his. But in that short hour where the Muse was present and alive, I got a much better handle on the events that set what happens in my story into motion.

When I told my spouse this morning about what had happened, she just shook her head. “Why couldn’t you have waited, written it down in the morning?” she asked. I suspect this is a question few novelists would have asked. I’ve learned the hard way that when the creative spirit is alive and its energy crackling through the air, one ignores it at one’s peril. When I don’t write down those explorations, those flashes of insight, as they happen, I’m almost always sorry later.

How about you? Have you experienced those moments of insight in your own writing? I’m curious what the experience feels like for others.


Layers of Conflict

Posted: 27th August 2011 by tammy in Writing Craft
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I’m working my way through a terrific writing book, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, by the inimitable Alexandra Sokoloff. As a “pantser” of long standing, the kind of writer whose forays into outlining before I write have uniformly ended badly, Alex’s book is especially interesting, because I’m discovering that my novel-in-progress intuitively follows many of the arcs and milestones Alex talks about.

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts inspired by Alex’s book, and today I’m thinking about layers of conflict in fiction.

In a mystery novel, the central conflict of the story is usually fairly clear. And it’s usually a variant on a basic, age-old pattern: The villain wants to get away with his plan, the hero or heroine wants to stop or unmask or apprehend him or her.

But in a great story, there are so many opportunities for conflict. These generally fall into one of two patterns:

  • Interpersonal Conflicts: Two characters have needs or desires which are in opposition to one another. In my novel, the main character is raising her grandchildren because her daughter is a drug addict. She wants to keep her grandchildren safe, but her daughter wants custody back. Both of them cannot get what they want.
  • Internal Conflicts: These conflicts are internal to one character, between two parts of her personality or between who she is and who she wishes to be. Oftentimes, they arise from the latter. The heroine wants to get the man of her dreams, but her past experience with an abusive husband holds her back. Of course, the man of her dreams is fighting his own inner conflicts at the same time… Often these conflicts stem from a gap between who the character is and who s/he wishes s/he could be. Jane wishes she could be bold enough to express her love for John, but how could she ever let herself be that vulnerable again?

What makes a dramatic story dramatic, I think, is the interplay between these conflicts. John and Jane both want a relationship, but their own internal baggage makes each of them unwilling to trust, to let go of past hurts and make the leap. Or, Jane wants John, but he’s still prisoner to the baggage of his past relationship with Sally. Until he lets go of that, he won’t be able to fully open his heart to Jane.

At the same time as these internal conflicts are playing out, of course, the larger interpersonal conflicts are unfolding, influenced by the internal struggles of all the players. The heroine must overcome her inner fears and demons, even as her personal collision course with the evil conspiracy marches inexorably closer to a confrontation that will free, or destroy, her.

To add richness and depth to your stories, think about these layers of internal and external conflict. Think about how the interplay of each character’s internal conflicts with one another, and with the larger external conflicts, shapes the decisions each character makes. The result will be a richer, more vivid, more credible story.


Review: Levenger Soul Skin

Posted: 15th August 2011 by tammy in Gear
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A few posts ago, I talked about my belief in the importance of having good tools. In writing, as in any other profession, using the right tools – the ones that work for each of us, that feel good to use in addition to being functional – is an important step toward greater productivity.

It is for that reason that I surfed over to Levenger last week and ordered a Soul Skin notebook cover. I’ve been a customer and fan of Levenger for many years, and I believe their True Writer is one of the best values going for fountain pens. So, I was expecting to be wowed by my Soul Skin. Even with those high initial expectations, I’m amazed and impressed.


If you’ve ordered from Levenger before, you’ll know the attention they put in making their packaging pretty, and this was no exception. The Soul Skin came in a beautiful little box, wrapped with a small piece of soft grey cloth. Aesthetically, the presentation was great, but I wanted to get working, so it didn’t stay in the box long.

The Soul Skin holds a Moleskine (or similar) notebook snugly, which is important for me because my notebooks tend to get battered around in my purse. The leather is strong but amazingly soft and supple. Seriously, I’ve seen suede that wasn’t this soft. In a clever bit of design, one leather-and-elastic pen loop is mounted to each cover. Slide in a pen, and it’ll hold the notebook closed. Although I got the Soul Skin with pen, I swapped it out for a True Writer fountain pen I already owned. I’ll use the ballpoint at home, I think.

As it happened, my Soul Skin arrived just in time to get a workout, in the form of a weekend camping trip. Over the course of 3 days, I wrote extensively in my notebook, which also weathered dust and dirt and (at one point) being kicked under the motorhome by a friend’s toddler. The dust wiped right off, and the notebook, pen, and Soul Skin remained good as new.

How’d the Soul Skin do for writing? Here too it exceeded my expectations. The leather felt wonderful in my hand – so much so that I found myself idly stroking it while working, a phenomenon which seems not uncommon. I find writing is a rather tactile experience sometimes, and the feel of the Soul Skin were amazing. So much so that most of the two remaining chapters of my first draft – which I’d been hashing around for days on the MacBook – got written over the weekend in my Moleskine.

Some – including one of my camping buddies – would call the Soul Skin a needless extravagance. I’m not one of those people. I like the way it feels, like the way it smells, love the way it protects my Moleskine from the bumps and scrapes of life. Is $100 for a leather notebook cover an extravagance? Maybe…but it’s already paid for itself with the work I did this weekend. And, really, one could blow as much money on a sushi dinner with friends, and have a lot less to show for it.

Would I buy another Soul Skin? Oh, yes. Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely, without reservation. If you’re a writer, or someone else whose work depends on carrying a notebook, you owe it to yourself to check out the Soul Skin.